Riesling Revolution at Ballymaloe

The Riesling Revolution at Ballymaloe

Top left: Carl Ehrhard, Emily Moore (Karwig), Maurice O'Mahony (Wine Alliance)
Bottom left: John McDonnell, Wine Australia Ireland

Ballymaloe: The Riesling Revolution

With three of the wine world’s top Riesling producers onstage at the Ballymaloe Grain Store  last night, some came expecting fireworks. But a much more civilised tone prevailed, set by one of Carl Ehrhard’s opening remarks when he described Riesling as “the most fantastic white variety”.

They were all on common ground there and the appreciative capacity audience (about 140) learned much about the capability of the Riesling grape over a very interesting two hours.

Carl was representing Germany, Severine Schlumberger the Alsace and Tim Adams Australia. As well as each showing two of their own wines, they also showed two from their neighbours. They each represented their area well but represented Riesling even better as they helped us work our way through the four flights.

Moderator John Wilson (2nd right) with l to r  Carl, Severine and Tim

The young Riesling, perhaps still my favourites, featured in the first three and Tim was first up with his 2011 Clare Valley, one of his own with a beautiful balance and a clean refreshing lingering finish. Severine showed one from her area: the 2009 Trimbach Riesling, ready now but which may be even better in a few months.

Carl showed one from his “favourite vineyard, not his own but the neighbouring Kunstler: the 2010 Hochheimer Stielweg Q.b.A, Trocken Old Vines. The vines for this are about 60 years old and, despite 2010 being a “complicated” year, this had lots of flavour and was my favourite.

The next three featured were not my favourites, though I’m open to change! I really don’t get on with that strong petrol aroma that develops the aged Riesling. Tim had his own 2007 Clare Valley, an area renowned for its “long term keeping” while Severine said now was “the perfect time to have it” as she referred to her own 2005 Domaines Schlumberger Grand Cru Kitterle.

Again Carl had chosen from the Kunstler: the 2007 Kunstler Estate Hochheim/Rheingau 2002 Hochheimer Kirchenstuck Riesling Erstes Gewachs. “Five years old and still so fresh.” This one I liked and it could well convert me to the aged Riesling.

The Riesling 12

I haven’t referred to prices yet but the next flight, the Off Dry, illustrated the range on the night with the easy drinking 2011 Peter Lehmann Art Series Class Riesling (Barossa) costing just €8.99 and coming bright and fresh in a very attractive green tinged bottle.

At the other end, Severine showed the 2004 Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg Cuvee Sainte Catherine “L’INEDIT” Domaine Weinbach. Silky, intense elegant and rich, this beauty will set you back €65.00.

Carl, whose humour was highlight of the evening, had one of his own this time, the 2010 Carl Ehrhard, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Berg Rosneck Riesling Trocken Unstuck, a fine food wine with a “very big minerality”. Cost is €29.50.

All three were good and commendable, for varying reasons. Buy the Lehmann for the party, the Ehrhard for yourself and the other half, and keep the Grand Cru for yourself, methinks (looking over my shoulder!).

Calm in the Grain Store before the revolution.

None of the three sweet wines came cheap but good ones rarely do. Much of the work in producing them is manual and the processes are risky. Tim had the 2020 Mt Horricks Cordon Cut from the Clare Valley. The Cut refers to the unique risky process that involves cutting the canes when the grapes are ripe.

Severine explained that for her 2009 Domaines Schlumberger, Riesling Vendanges Tardives the grapes are late harvested by hand in October, having been carefully tended from their pruning in the previous winter. “The richness of these mellow wines is perfectly natural.”

Carl said that the year 2007 was “absolutely perfect for Botrytis” and that accounted for the outstanding desert wine: 2007 Carl Ehrhard, Rheingau, Rudesheimer Berg Rottland Riesling Beerenauslese.

Carl was quite willing to go and explain more but Riesling loving moderator John Wilson reined him gently and left the last word to another man with a great humour and also a great love of wine, John McDonnell (Wine Australia).

John thanked Colm McCan of Ballymaloe and indeed the whole Ballymaloe crew for their help in staging the event and also had praise for Karwig Wines (represented by Emilie Moore) and for Tindal Wines for their help in supplying the great range of samples.

All in all, a memorable evening and one where I for one, learned a great deal about this fabulous grape. Well-done to all concerned, especially to Colm and Ballymaloe whose future wine event list may be seen here. Don’t miss out!